It never occurred to progressives during the celebration of electing a black president in 2008 that Obama's election would inspire a resurgence of racial, religious, and gender discrimination. From the outset, GOP leaders announced that their main goal for the country was to get Obama out of office. While progressives were basking in the idea that America had surmounted its racist past by choosing a black man as its leader, the conservatives were boiling with an intense anger and resentment that propelled the nation backward into that pre-civil rights past. The GOP, once the party of Lincoln that began the liberation of black America, now openly courted the forces of discrimination and oppression as it power base. Its mission became the push backward to overturn the racial, ethnic, and gender equities that the civil rights movement had established. The values that conservatives wanted to conserve were not the liberating and elevating ones of Lincoln, but the regressive and oppressive values of George Wallace and Orval Faubus, southern governors who openly professed their racial hatred and made it a governing principle.
The GOP agenda is snarled up in its efforts to maintain the appearance of beneficence while serving the insidious purposes of the social regressives. While indignantly denying any racial agenda, it has launched federal and multi-state legislative proposals to reduce voting rights, subjugate women, oppress labor, punish immigrant minorities, dismantle public education, and impose the Christian version of sharia on the nation. The rage and incoherence demonstrated in its presidential primary campaigns is one symptom of its furor to reverse the equities that have been granted since World War II. The rage to defame the designated groups is too volatile to suppress. It keeps spilling out in words and deeds, often in absurd and obvious ways that fool no one but the perpetrators of the new Jim Crow.
One such instance of malicious contrivance was one of the last efforts of Andrew Breitbart, who devoted himself to the craft and dishonesty of fabricating misleading, often stupid lies out of videos. Just before he died, he provided Fox News with a video that showed President Obama as a law student introducing and hugging one of his Harvard Law School professors, Derrick Bell. The GOP has an essential interest in painting Derrick Bell as a raving "racialist" and accusing Obama of being one of his adherents. Derrick Bell was a developer of the Critical Race Theory. The Critical Race Theory as Bell conceived it provides an incisive explanation of what the GOP is promoting in its agendas of oppression.
Derrick Bell posed the Critical Race Theory when gains made during the civil rights movement were stalling, were being blocked, or were in danger of being reversed. As a legal scholar, Bell was primarily interested in how attitudes about race affected the law. He examined the way racial biases affected the formation of law, its application, and judiciary challenges. His basic premise was that racism is not a cultural aberration, but is ingrained in American society in ways that seem to many an integral aspect that defines the society.
Two opposite perspectives operate in America. One, which is usually but mistakenly identified as "liberal," is that social pathologies such as racism are undeniable aspects of society as demonstrated in history. Slavery, the dispossession and oppression of the American Indian, women's suffrage and rights, religious intolerance and persecution, to name a few of those aspects, are facts of history that America has struggled to rise above. It is tha struggle which has defined the values and the unique force that America has represented to the world. Freedom, equality, and justice were the goals set by the founders, and America has worked gradually toward achieving them, recognizing that there are those segments of the population which do not want those values to apply to all people.
The opposite perspective is held by those who take offense against people who openly acknowledge America's history, its transgressions against human rights, and regard the struggle to surmount its past and present inequities and oppression as the driving national purpose. Those who are offended by this acknowledgment prefer to dismiss America's past transgressions against humanity and assert that America was created with a divinely bestowed exceptionalism. They regard any criticism of America as a weakness, an expression of anti-patriotic of values, an obsequious deference to foreign thinking. They conceive of international bullying as the demonstration of national strength and leadership. Any apology for insults or violence done to others is portrayed as an obsequious degradation of America by them. Obama's apology to Afghanistan for the mistaken burning of Qurans has met with denunciations of his character and intellect for them. However, anyone who does not treat those denunciations with obsequy is upbraided for incivility. Both Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum have shouted that they will never apologize for America.
|Emmet Till in his casket.|
|The picture that launched the civil rights movement|
The spirit of Jim Crow has emerged again as a force in American social and political life. The work of America in trying to make liberty, equality, and justice its defining values is never done. And there is always the chance that the forces of discrimination and oppression will become the majority. Many would like to retreat into fascist chauvinism and insist on the America that once sustained slavery and conducted genocide against the American Indians and designated labor and women to the status of servitude.
America has still to become America, if its people will allow it.